In our Gospel reading from Mark for the Easter Vigil, the women who had come to visit Jesus’ tomb with spices they had prepared, begin to realize on the way that they may have a problem when they get there. They ask each other, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”
Over the years, this question has become for me the thing on which to reflect as I meditate on this passage. Often in our lives, we are faced with seemingly insurmountable problems and obstacles. There doesn’t seem to be a way out, and one cannot see any glimmer of light indicating the end of a tunnel. We ask ourselves, “How am I going to be able to fix this? What am I supposed to do?” If we are people of faith, we need to remember what this day is all about. We need to remember that the same One who died on the Cross rose from the dead! And the One who did roll back the stone for the women is the same One who can get us to the other side of whatever we’re facing.
For the same God who created the world out of love (our first Vigil reading from Genesis) is the same God who made the covenant with Abraham (our second Vigil reading) and is the same God who parted the Red Sea for the Israelites to escape slavery in Egypt (our third Vigil reading from Exodus). It is the same God who can roll back the stones that are too big for us to handle, and raise us up!
When the women find the stone rolled back, they do not find what they expected to see. Instead, they see an angel who tells them that Jesus is not there: “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” Like the women, we cannot find the living among the dead! But so often we try to find life in all the wrong places. In the fifth reading for the Vigil, the prophet Isaiah says: “Thus says the Lord: All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat…Why spend your money for what is not bread, your wages for what fails to satisfy?…Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.” The prophet Baruch, in the sixth reading for the Vigil says, “Learn where prudence is, where strength, where understanding; that you may know also where are length of days and life.” And in one of the options for the second reading for Easter Day, from 1 Corinthians, St. Paul writes: “…let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
In other words, greed for the things of this world will not grant us the serenity, peace and joy we seek, even though it seems evident that they will. Trying to dominate and control others, as tempting as it may be when things do not go our way or others do not behave the way we want, will not give us what we seek. Trying to numb the pain with alcohol or drugs or any other kind of addiction will not ultimately work. The only thing that will work for us is to surrender to the love of God. The only thing that will work is to trust in the One who can raise us up; who can follow the Cross with the empty tomb, and declare that Resurrection is the final word!
We can trust in the truth of this day, April Fools notwithstanding! Easter is no trick! Have we not already seen stones rolled back for us? Have we not already been lifted up in our lives? Have we not experienced Easter after Good Friday? Rejoice in the Resurrection, and believe that it can happen for you. And for those on the brink of despair, for those who cannot find a reason for hope, may we share the love of the Risen Lord in reaching out to them, and help make Easter real for them!
In the Risen Christ!
Fr. Phil, CP